The Muslim world finds itself amidst a battle of two narratives — one of oppression and one of justice.
The oppressive narrative enforces death for blasphemy and/or apostasy and wants government that rejects the democratic ideal of separation of mosque and state. It relegates women to second class status and likewise, seeks to establish a Khalifa to unite Muslims in their oppressive cause.
The just narrative uses service to humanity and the pen to present Islam’s true essence. It presents no shortage of scholarly literature to repudiate oppressive interpretations of Islam; see this brilliant work by a twentieth century Islamic scholar and another brilliant work by a former UN President and President of the International Court of Justice. Likewise, the just narrative inspires Muslims to remain at the cutting edge of service to humanity through organizations like Humanity First and the “Muslims for Life” annual blood drive. It inspires women to pursue higher education and become leaders in science, scholarship, and yes, motherhood. This demonstrates that the justice based narrative is not just some theological exegesis of Qur’anic interpretation and theory, but instead it is based in hard reality.
But the oppressive narrative is certainly influential. In a recent Pew survey 75% of Pakistanis replied that Islam needs blasphemy laws and that the government must punish blasphemers. Before his ignoble demise, Pakistan’s Dictator General Zia built and enforced these blasphemy laws with dreams of becoming the Khalifa. Since, this narrative has spread as far east as Indonesia and far west as Canada. Yes, even in Canada clerics like Mullah Tahir ul Qadri, while claiming to be a moderate, teach that blasphemers and apostates must be executed. Women suffer under unconscionable illiteracy, poverty, and abuse. This narrative is not necessarily comprised of monolithic Muslims, but it is united in this oppressive ideology and in the desire to galvanize that oppression with a Khalifa.
So what does the just narrative on Islam have to say about this?
Contrary to the oppressive narrative, the just narrative implores pluralism and democracy. It actively rejects the medieval notions that Islam in any way approves any punishment for blasphemy or apostasy, or that Islam allows mixture of mosque and state. It champions free speech and free expression while imploring self-control, personal civility, and universal service to humanity. It elevates women to an equitable status, ensuring above all the right to self-determination. This just narrative is also not necessarily comprised of monolithic Muslims, but is united in the cause of justice and democracy. Incidentally, many Muslims supporting this narrative welcome a Khalifa to spiritually unite Muslims on the tenets of justice — not oppression.
Maintaining our theme of practical solutions rather than abstract theory — the reality is that such just Muslims are increasingly uniting under a Khalifa who upholds justice and democracy.
His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifa of Islam and head of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is not only the world’s only Khalifa, but also continues an unbroken chain of peaceful progress through Khilafat that spans over 120 years. Indeed, Muslims in over 200 nations worldwide find unity under the Khalifa’s leadership. His Holiness continues to open and fund numerous educational institutions for young children, especially girls, of all faiths and backgrounds. Likewise, His Holiness continues to advocate for a moderate Islam while logically and practically refuting irrational, extremist, and unjust interpretations. When asked just a few days ago on whether his spiritual office of the Khalifa and influence over tens of millions of Muslims worldwide is compatible with secular democratic governance, His Holiness emphatically replied, “Khilafat has no relation to government or politics. When [Islam] Ahmadiyyat spreads far and wide the Khilafat will play no role in government and will never interfere with matters of State. We have no political ambitions or desires. We believe entirely in a separation of religion and matters of State.”
Critics attempt to dismiss His Holiness’ leadership and influence, remarking that he commands no army and rule no nation. Such foolish critics forget, that is the whole point of separation of mosque and state. Without worldly force, His Holiness wields immense influence for the good of humanity by maintaining absolute justice in all affairs and relentlessly serving humanity through altruism.
Ultimately, the oppressive narrative of Islam destroys itself, and any hope of ever establishing a Khalifa. Meanwhile, Muslims who follow the just Islamic narrative create an undeniably progressive present, and an equitable future worthy of envy for all mankind.
Thus, the Khalifa of Islam presents a pristine, practical, and correct example of what Islam represents—personal spirituality, secular based just governance, gender equity, and universal service to humanity.
May the best narrative win.
Qasim Rashid is a national spokesperson for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA and author of the recent book The Wrong Kind of Muslim. Follow him on Twitter @MuslimIQ.